Identity theft protection is a must for all computer users, and that extends to social media such as Facebook. Because of the very nature of social networking sites — where people are encouraged to share personal information — users are automatically at risk of becoming victims of identity theft.
Facebook users should be aware that identity thieves are constantly coming up with new scams aimed at stealing personal data. And oftentimes, that data is publicly accessible and within easy reach.
Here are some tips for identity theft protection and to keep your Facebook profile safe:
1. Don't post your birth date, or at least don't post the year you were born. It might seem like a tactic for people who just want to cling to their 20s for as long as possible, but it actually has a practical use: Your birth date, year included, is a key piece of information to steal your identity.
2. Think twice when you want to purchase Facebook services that require your credit card information. It's best to avoid putting that data on the site.
3. Have boundaries. Avoid revealing where a photo was taken and stop geotagging photos that show exact locations. Be cautious about posting pics that reveal your address or show where you keep valuables in your home.
4. The more you publicly reveal where you are and what you are doing, identity thieves will surely take notice. Delete photos and posts on your timeline that show personally identifiable information.
5. Your name, profile picture, and cover photo are all always "public" and that cannot be changed. From this public information, thieves can create identical Facebook profiles aimed at infecting users' devices with spyware that can steal precious data. Use reputable internet security software on your device to weed out dangerous threats for effective identity theft protection. Also, be extra cautious of downloading free anti-spyware packages, which could be malware in disguise!
Last year the Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with Facebook to make sure the site took certain privacy steps; that's good news for users concerned about privacy, but you should be your own advocate to prevent identity theft.
For more than one billion people and counting, Facebook has been a venue to connect with old friends, keep in touch over long distances and promote new business ventures. If you use it wisely and with a bit of precaution, Facebook can be a great tool. If not, the bad guys out there may just ruin the fun.